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Wilhelm Reich's theories from the standpoint of modern science

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Research programs Wilhelm Reich, M.D.


Positions and
Microscopic research
opinions of others
Experiments in progress Since the best way to introduce someone to a new realm of knowledge is to describe
Blood Disintegration the process by which it has evolved, I shall attempt to introduce the reader to
Hadjidakis on fascism
Bions orgonomic functionalism by presenting the uniformity of the results which have been
Experiment XX obtained over a period of three decades. Karapostolis: The
Amoebae passage from freedom

Biophysical research Thus far, I have provided essentially thematic and historical descriptions. What I now to contemporary
brutality
Experiments in progress want to do is to rearrange the familiar material, the many observations, clinical and
Orgone Energy Field Meter experimental facts, and theoretical conclusions, and I want to do this in such a way Popper about science
Orgonomic functionalism that the rationality of consistent natural research presents itself to us in a logical
more…
Wilhelm Reich and physics sequence of observation, hypothesis, experimental confirmation, and new findings.
Experiments regarding the This arrangement of the orgonomic facts will ultimately lead us to formulate functional
existence of orgone equations which will link up with the thought operations of classical mathematics and
Sharing our points of
Accumulating devices provide satisfactory insight into the modus operandi of a thinking being who seeks to view
Weather control comprehend the natural world around him. Observer and natural function, subjective
Cosmology sensation and objective stimulus, perception and object will appear to us in the new
Wilhelm Reich and medicine light of a functional unity of all nature. Ultimately we will have to acknowledge that the
What health is biological structure of the observer cannot be excluded from his study of nature or from New Postings
The importance of the ANS for any assessment of the results of his research. Scientific thinking embodies a certain
Reich’s work logic and rationality, and these reflect nothing less than the harmony of natural events 12/2/2014 New posting at
Bioelectrical experiments which, until now, have been extolled only in great poetry. We will also be able to “Sharing our points of view” /
Biopathies assign the irrational to its proper place and trace its history for a short distance. On qualification and
Somatic recognition
Psychic THE REALM OF THE PSYCHE IS NOT OF SUPERNATURAL ORIGIN 12/2/2014 New posting at
Reich Blood Test “Sharing our points of view” /
The ORAC in medical practice The development of the system of functional thought proceeded from one unproven The bigotry of Orgonomy’s
Wilhelm Reich and biogenesis conviction: Human emotional life is not of supernatural origin. It is located within the “small apostles”
Biogenesis: Introductory note bounds of nature and is investigable. Like the rest of nature, it obeys the functional 2/12/2013 New post at
Bions laws of matter and energy. “Sociology / Social pathology /
Experiment XX Psychopathology and
Psychiatric orgonetherapy This conviction had to wrestle with two gigantic facts with which it was at variance: antisocial activism” / Prison of
Historical development of orgone permissiveness
therapy The laws of natural events as uncovered by chemistry, physics, and mathematics 11/25/2013 New post on
What psychiatric orgone therapy cannot be brought into accord with the functions which characterize emotional life. “Positions and opinions of
is Seen from a fundamental standpoint, the mechanistic material view of nature covers others” / The passage from
Stratification of psychic structures only unessential realms of the living. freedom to contemporary
(Freud-Reich comparison) For the vast majority of human beings, the broad realm of emotions, sensations, brutality
philosophies of life, and practical lifestyles is anchored in mystical, supernatural forces
Libidinal stages – Fixations 25/1/2014 New posting at
which are universally based, in one form or another, on the idea of a Godlike entity
What character is and factors “Orgonomic functionalism” /The
existing beyond the range of all sensory perceptions. This idea contradicted the view
affecting character formation Developmental History of
that human emotional life was located within the sphere of comprehensible natural
Segments of armoring Orgonomic Functionalism
processes.
Characterology
All postings
The goal of orgone therapy: Thus, even before it could begin to operate effectively, the technique of functional
Genitality – Orgasm reflex
thinking came up against the rigid walls of the two systems of thought employed by
Method and tools in
humankind, namely mechanism (materialism, atomism, chemism, etc.) and
orgonetherapy Recent Announcements
mysticism (idealism, metaphysics, spiritualism, etc.) which can look back on several
Patients’ testimonials
thousand years of development and are supported by powerful social organizations.
Armor prevention Publishing project: “Wilhelm
Child upbringing Reich: Complete works”
There was no question of providing a purely philosophical basis for the this-sidedness
Social Orgonomy
of the emotional sphere of life. This would not have solved anything and, sooner or 6/6/2013 Ιnvitation for research
Social psychopathology collaboration to biologists or
later, it would have silently disappeared. There was only one route to take, and that
Emotional plague microbiologists and physicists
was to engage in the direct observation of natural events and to explain these
Mass psychology of fascism
observations by logical analysis. The words “function” and “functional” were in use at
Psychopathology and politics All the announcements
the time but they said nothing about the basic problem. On the contrary, they often led
Psychopathology and antisocial
people astray, as for example in the case of psychiatry, where “functional” illnesses
activism (permissiveness and
were regarded as “imaginary” complaints. And there was a deep, unbridgeable gap Subscribe
tolerance)
between the medical and the physical concept of what is “functional.”
Work-democracy Your email:
Glossary of orgonomic terms
NATURAL FUNCTIONING IS BASICALLY AN ENERGY PROCESS Enter email address...

To the ancient Greek observers of nature, the inanimate world seemed filled with Subscribe
substance in motion. There was a prevailing view that everything moves, everything is
“in flux.” This basic viewpoint persists in present-day natural research. “Movement” and
“energy process” are inseparable because movement, or the overcoming of space,
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presupposes a force which impels the substance. Today I can no longer explain why in
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my natural scientific conception I gave preference to the “energy” process over “matter” 
or “substance.” This attitude on my part was more likely to create problems because United States 237
Red blood cell disintegration
the principal direction of thought in physics and chemistry was atomistic, i.e.
into bions (210 minutes after Germany 106
blood take – Dark field). For materialistic; in other words, all nature was conceived of as having evolved from atoms
in motion. This view had imposed itself on the electron theory, which was at the time United Kingdom 79
more please visit page
“Research programs / (approximately 1919) gaining considerable ground. Even the smallest units of Cyprus 75
Microscopic research”. electricity possessed mass, i.e. they were particles, although of a special kind. The
Ghana 66
contradiction contained in the emerging theory of functionalism was thus as follows:
Slovakia 38
If natural functioning is basically an energy process, it follows logically that there must
Seminar also be a primary or primordial energy. However, since electrons already possess
Spain 36

mass, then “matter” or particles must also have a primary existence. In purely logical India 36
terms it is unlikely that two such different entities as energy and mass could
Introductory seminar Brazil 34
simultaneously be primary phenomena. And classical physics, including the modern
on psychiatric Canada 34
energy-mass relationship, concluded that mass and energy are primordial natural
orgonetherapy and
character analysis phenomena. Einstein had already eliminated the absolute distinction between mass Italy 31
and energy. Energy (E) was now mass moving at the speed of light (mxc2), but it was
Finland 28
still “mass” and not in purely primary terms, mass-free. True, it had been known since
Becquerel and Curie that matter converts or breaks down into energy, and it was France 26
Hellenic Society of understood how this happens. But nobody, with the exception of a few ether
Psychiatric Orgone Total Visits: 7800
philosophers, suggested that mass could form from energy. Matter with its mass (m)
Therapy and Character was and remained a primordial, not further derivable natural phenomenon. I did not Total Pageviews: 24263
Analysis suspect at the time that this limitation is due to the nature of mechanistic thinking. It
would not have helped much to know this because immediately a new problem would
have presented itself, namely, if mass is not primordial then how can it be formed from
Evaluation of your blood’s energy?
bioenergetic charge (Reich
Blood Test) available in Embryonic functionalism gave precedence to energy in natural development, without
Thessaloniki being able to prove it. And there was nothing at the time which would have explained
where a young natural scientist might have acquired this prejudice. It was not a
mystical inclination, because evolving functionalism sharply rejected any metaphysical
Psychiatric orgonetherapy conception of nature, such as entelechy, vis. spiritualism. From my present
services standpoint, it seems as if this preference was based simply in the sensations of
motion in my own organism. It was nothing more than a prejudice which later proved to
be well-founded.

From the first supposition that emotional processes are within the realm of
comprehensible natural phenomena, and from the second supposition that all natural
phenomena are primarily energetic, it follows logically that emotional and psychic
phenomena must be ascribed basically to energy processes.
A wonderful artistic
representation of orgone’s
THERE IS A “PSYCHIC ENERGY”
movement, through a digitally
processed Van Gogh’s
Somewhere around 1919 my initial functional assumptions linked up with the theories
painting titled “Starry night”.
formulated by the science of psychoanalysis, which at the time had not yet abandoned
its energy-related orientation, as it has done today. Freud was, I believe, the first
researcher in the field of psychology to assume the existence of a “psychic energy.” 
Pages in this site
will be completed According to this view, psychic ideas and perceptions were associated with varying

at a slow pace. amounts of “affect”. These affects, which were later simply called “emotions,” were
Information of new expressions of biological drives. For example, a process of repression might only act
additions will appear on an idea, as in the case of hysteria, while leaving the associated affect unrepressed;
at the “New postings” or it might act merely on the affect, while leaving the idea untouched, as in the case of
section. obsessional neurosis. Also, both the idea and the affect may be repressed, as
happens in certain cases of total amnesia. In this view there was no connection
between ideas and affects, either functionally or genetically. “Idea” and “affect” were
completely different and separate psychological entities.

At that time, psychoanalytic theory was based on the same principle as classical
physics. Just as in nonliving nature “matter” or “mass,” which were primary, were
moved and displaced by “forces,” so in the psychological sphere “amounts of energy” 
became affixed to static ideas, moving and displacing them. The ideas corresponded
to the “matter,” and the “drives” corresponded to the “forces” or “impulses”
of classical physics.[2]

It was at this point that the first major effort to utilize the functional technique of
thinking commenced.

The theory of sexual economy, which in those days was still in the embryonic stage,
was used to make a thorough study of the function of the orgasm. It found among
other things that a sexual idea, such as that of the sexual act, could not be produced
if the corresponding emotions were lacking or if the organism had just lost its state of
high tension through gratification, i.e. through “discharge of energy.” Thus there was
somehow a closer link between an idea and an energy process than was assumed by
psychoanalytic theory.

Detailed phenomenological studies on the pleasure sensation left no doubt that it


cannot be separated from the drive function. It was not a case of a drive here striving
toward a pleasure there, but instead the drive was nothing more than the motor
function of pleasure itself.

Now, since the sensation of pleasure is a psychic function while a drive is a physical
function, two previously separate functions in the organism were, with one stroke,
combined into a “functional unit.” Drive and pleasure were one and the same as far as
motor activity is concerned.

Motor activity was no longer a function of “drive”; instead, the drive urge was the
function of a still undefined biological motor activity. The same was true for the
sensation of pleasure.

Bodily excitation, the drive, was identical with a psychic sensation with respect to a
certain biological process, sexual motor activity. At that time it was not clear what was
moving in the body. And it was equally unclear what was meant by the term “sexual
function.” Freudian sexual psychology was fully aware of these uncertainties. Freud
assumed that the drives “are rooted in biological processes” and that these processes
are in some way chemical in nature. Later, psychoanalysis completely lost its
orientation regarding such fundamental questions of science. It became bogged down
in an embarrassing mixture of psychiatric business and loose talk about human
beings.

However, the thought technique of orgonomic functionalism had gained its first
important position: Ideas may come and go. Their existence depends on the state of
motion of the body’s energy.

Sensation and excitation are identical in one still undetermined common functioning
principle. Sensation is a function of excitation, and excitation in turn is a function of
sensation. They are inseparable and form a functional unit; and at the same time they
are not one and the same, but different from each other, indeed even opposed to each
other. This gave rise to the first formulation of the “simultaneity of identity and an-
tithesis.”

This development occurred between 1919 and 1923. It was not clearly understood at
the time that this was an innovation in thinking, but the result was presented in my
paper entitled “Über Triebenergetik”[3] (1923) and in my psychoanalytic studies on
genitality from then on.
These initial observations were the starting point for the formulation which was so
important in shaping my later comprehension of the processes of consciousness,
namely that ideas are “concentrations of energy quanta,” i.e., that psychic ideas can
be traced back to energy processes.

This innovation in thinking was totally without precedent in the field of natural science.
The fundamentally new element here was the assumption that two functions could be
simultaneously identical and antithetical. Natural philosophy could only offer the
monistic view of the unity of body and soul, the dualistic conception of psychophysical
parallelism, the mechanistic-materialistic, one-sided dependence of the soul on the
body, and the spiritualistic (idealistic-metaphysical) dependence of matter on a
supernatural world spirit. Freud’s method of thinking was essentially materialistic, but
dualistic. It operated with two types of drive which had no connection in the depths. At
first, there were the “sexual instincts” and the “ego instincts”; later, there were “sexual
instincts” and the “death instinct.” It was not until many years later, around 1927, that I
found out about the system of thought known as “dialectic materialism” postulated by
Friedrich Engels (“Anti-Duhring”).

This initial, still groping attempt to relate a psychic idea to an energetic state of
movement decided the course of my work up to the discovery of the cosmic orgone
and the orgonometric functional equations of 1947. It is not easy to clarify this here in
simple terms, but the following diagram may serve to indicate why the psychoanalytic
formulation and my initial functional formulation on the emotional process inevitably led
in two opposite directions.

Diagram of the Relationship between Idea and Drive Energy

Psychology very soon ignored the amount of affect “which attaches to the idea” and
concentrated more and more on the contents, the experiences, conflicts, human
relationships, etc. Although psychology is aware that experiences, conflicts, etc. are
charged with affect to varying degrees, it is not interested in the origin of the affects.
Indeed, psychology often commits the gross error of assuming that this wealth of
affect itself derives from a mother fixation. In so doing, it overlooks the fact that the
strong mother fixation is itself already the result of a special energy state of the infant
organism.

Functionalism, which later led to the discovery of the cosmic orgone energy, instead
concentrated its attention on the dependency of psychic contents—ideas, conflicts,
experiences, etc.—on the energy state of the organism. Excessive mother fixation in a
child, for example, now appeared as an expression of “pent-up drive” or “energy
stasis,” i.e. it corresponded to a disturbance in the release of energy by the organism.
This theory was confirmed clinically inasmuch as the conflict was resolved when the
capacity for the orderly discharge of energy was restored. A genitally pent-up child
clings orally to the mother. A genitally gratified child does not cling to the mother but
has playmates of its own age.

Psychology analyzes and breaks down experiences and conflicts and relates them
back to earlier, historically important experiences. Current ideas and instinctual goals
understandably emerge from earlier or repressed ideas and instinctual goals.

Functional orgone therapy does not break down experiences; it does not operate with
associations of ideas, but primarily with instinctual energies which it releases from
characterological and muscular blocks, thereby allowing the energies to flow freely
again; it eliminates energy stasis. It is of no consequence to orgone therapy what
experiences have led to the energy becoming dammed-up. The therapeutic goal of
psychology is to recall forgotten experiences. The goal of orgone therapy is to mobilize
the biological energy, the orgone, in the organism.

There is another difference between psychology and orgone biophysics which is of


decisive importance, even for mathematical, orgonometric studies. The exclusive
concentration on experiences and ideas has led to increasingly complex relationships
and processes. In contrast, concentrating on the energy functions progressively
simplifies our understanding of the biological processes and therewith the wealth of
human experiences and ideas, because all experiences can be related back to simple
biological energy processes. In order to clarify this contrast between simplicity at the
deep biological level and complexity at the superficial psychic level, one need only
think of the infinite abundance and variations of psychotic and neurotic experiences.
However, this profusion of experiences is based on one energy-related fact, namely,
the stasis of sexual-biological energy. The pathological fantasies in all their confusion
and endless complexity collapse like a house of cards when the biological energy
starts again to function naturally, i.e., economically.

In addition, seen from the standpoint of natural research which attempts to bring
human beings back into harmony with nature, psychology does not lead beyond the
psychic processes, while functional energetics leads from the idea to biological
energy, and from biological energy to its origin in general, natural energy functions.
After all, energetic functionalism led logically to the discovery of the bions[4] and then
to that of the orgone.

Diagram showing the relationship between complexity in the psychic sphere and
simplicity in the biological sphere

“PSYCHIC ENERGY” — A FUNCTION OF BIOLOGICAL CELL EXCITATION

I have said already that sexual excitation was regarded as an effect caused by
“chemical substances” which later became known as “sexual hormones.” It was not
stated how chemical, hormonal processes generate sexual excitation. The functional
method of thinking had to overcome this chemical prejudice.

Sexual excitation is obviously an energy process. In contrast, chemical processes are


materially based, because they are characterized essentially by the formation or
dissolution of bonds between atoms. The production or consumption of heat which
takes place when this happens has nothing to do with the very manifest phenomenon
of “excitation.” The materially and chemically based interpretation of sexual emotion
tried in vain to link a living function directly with a function of inanimate matter. This
was a short circuit in mechanistic thinking. It bordered on the uncritical to assume that
a living function originated from a nonliving function, without making the slightest
attempt to explain the details of how this transition occurred. This faulty thinking is
quite generally characteristic of the biochemical viewpoint in biology.

Functionalism proceeded in a different way. It grouped together the observable


phenomena in the organism which are connected with sexual excitation, and in the
process it took another decisive step forward in the development of this thought tech-
nique, at the same time casting light on an important phenomenon: Observations
revealed directly and irrefutably that the sensation of pleasure and the sexual urge go
together with excitation of the autonomic nervous system. This was a continuation of
the link between somatic drive and psychic pleasure sensation which has been
described previously. Instinctual drive and pleasure sensation are functionally identical
as far as the mo-tor functions of the living organism are concerned. This now showed
that the somatic drive is functionally identical with an excitation, i.e. a function or
movement (not an immobile “substance”) of the living nervous apparatus.

Thus, functionalism did not commit the error of deliberately and unjustifiably linking
psychic function with a somatic function. Instead, through careful observation of the
phenomena, it discovered a simultaneous interdependence and thus functional identity
of psychic pleasure sensation, bodily sexual urge, and an observable excitation of the
autonomic nervous system.

Nowadays, these facts are banal cliches even outside the field of orgonomy. But at
that time, in the twenties, they were not self-evident. Even Muller, who was far ahead
of his time, spoke in his collective work Die Lebensnerven (1931) in dualistic and
finalistic terms of the “goal” of pleasure which is “served” by the excitation of the
parasympathetic apparatus. In the functional view there was no apparatus here and
goal there. Thus the former was not in the “service” of the latter. Instead, pleasure
sensation, instinctual drive, and parasympathetic excitation were merely different
aspects of one and the same function, the total excitation of the living organism. These
different aspects of one function were inseparable, because there is no pleasure
sensation without instinctual drive, no instinctual drive without pleasure sensation, and
neither exist without biological excitation, and vice-versa. The various “aspects,” 
“purposes,” “services,” “goals,” etc. do not exist at all. They were merely inventions of
human fantasy, i.e. incorrect assumptions of mechanistic-mystical thought. When it is
carefully considered, the statement “drive is in the service of pleasure or reproduction” 
is entirely meaningless. Where does the drive come from? And where is the pleasure
sensation located? These are the logical questions which we must then ask.

The formulation of the unity of pleasure, drive, and biological excitation also resulted in
the solution of the problem posed by Freud, namely, how can sexual excitation
change into anxiety. Freud had correctly observed that when sexual excitation is re-
pressed, it is replaced in many cases by anxiety. However, Freud was unable to
explain this fact. At a later date, he completely abandoned the idea of a correlation
between sexuality and anxiety, to the detriment of the research being carried out on
drive processes. More than that, he totally separated both functions, erroneously
ascribing anxiety to the “ego” and sexuality to the “id.” He nevertheless admitted that
the problem remained unsolved.

In contrast, functionalism was on the right track. If pleasure sensation, sexual drive,
and parasympathetic excitation form one functional unit, if in addition—and this has
been confirmed clinically—anxiety appears when sexual excitation and the pleasure
sensation disappear, then anxiety belongs in a specific, although still
incomprehensible way, to the functional unit of biological excitation, bodily urge, and
psychic sensation. Once this precondition was understood, it was no longer difficult to
solve the riddle.

Biological excitation takes place in the nervous system of the living organism, i.e. in
the autonomic nervous system. However, this nervous system consists of two groups
of nerves which function antithetically, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. All
the phenomena of the pleasure function are associated with excitations of the
parasympathetic. When the pleasure function cannot operate, anxiety appears. It
follows logically that if the parasympathetic function cannot operate, the sympathetic
is stimulated. The phenomena of anxiety go together with functions of the sympathetic
system, provided that expansive impulses are developed against the resistance of a
contraction. If the sympathetic system is functionally antithetical to the
parasympathetic system, then, logically, anxiety must be the antithesis of pleasure.
Thus, pleasure does not change into anxiety, but in anxiety biological excitation
functions in an opposite direction to that of pleasure.

This represented a very important step forward in the formulation of the life function. It
was also supported by clinically verifiable phenomena. Anxiety is experienced
essentially in the cardio-diaphragmatic region and, unless one is severely disturbed,
pleasure is experienced essentially in the genital. Thus the heart and genital are two
antithetical realms in which the unitary biological excitation may become
concentrated. Cardiac anxiety disappears when genital excitation occurs. If the biologi-
cal excitation is concentrated essentially in the genital apparatus, then the genital
urge and the corresponding pleasure sensation are experienced. If the biological
excitation is concentrated essentially in the cardio-diaphramatic region, one
experiences anxiety and is incapable of pleasure.

With these formulations, orgonomic functionalism had discovered, at first


unconsciously, the “basic antithesis of the living”: the antithesis of pleasure and
anxiety, of parasympathetic and sympathetic, of expansion and contraction of the vital
apparatus, of periphery and center of the organism. The detailed clinical and
experimental elaboration of this functioning realm of biological energy took about
twelve years to complete (from 1925 to 1937). It spontaneously opened up the area of
bion and orgone research.

I have already stressed that orgonomic functionalism is not just a different or new kind
of natural philosophy, but a different and new kind of tool of natural research. An
initially very unsophisticated tool, e.g. a stone axe, made possible the discovery of
iron, and the discovery of iron made it possible to refine the tool from a stone axe into
an axe made of iron, and so on. Thus, the method or the tool of natural research
undergoes a development which is often far more important than the facts which are
discovered.

With the theoretical formulation of the pleasure-anxiety antithesis, which is rooted in


biological excitation and differentiated in various directions of one and the same
excitation, energetic functionalism had won a more controllable, usable position.
Whatever the natural facts involved, it was now able to apply the following
methodological principles over and over again to ascertain to what extent these
principles were valid; whether they can comprehend only certain parts of nature or
whether they are generally valid; in other words, whether all nature follows the
functional law which revealed itself in the functioning of the life apparatus and its
emotions.

It should be stressed that by approaching natural research via the psychic emotions,
the sphere of emotions has always remained within the realm of what can be
investigated. Furthermore, the results which were ultimately obtained and used to
develop an overall view of nature veered sharply away from the direction of mechanism
and mysticism, without ending up in spiritualism.

FIRST RULES OF FUNCTIONAL THINKING

Unlike natural philosophy or the electron theory, orgonomic functionalism does not
attempt to arrive at a total image of nature directly from certain individual facts. Thus, it
does not immediately draw conclusions about the functional lawfulness of all nature
from the special quality of the life apparatus. It is inherent in functionalism that it must
repeatedly test, apply, and confirm the general principle of its method in each
individual case. In each new step forward, the general principle of functional thinking
constantly reconstructs its tools to match the unique qualities of the new functions, in
the same way that the general principle of erecting a scaffold is specifically modified
for each new building. Thus, in addition to a generally valid basic law, which is simple
and can be formulated in a few sentences, orgonomic functionalism encompasses a
broad range of specific tools and forms. We will find later, in the orgonometric realms,
that this simultaneity of the basic form of thinking and its variation is reflected in the
natural laws by a simultaneity of certainty and uncertainty, finiteness and infinity.

I would now like to list briefly the fundamental principles of the thought technique which
have been applied with increasing clarity from about 1925:

Each newly discovered fact was burdened with the question: Where is the second fact
which is functionally antithetical to the known fact? (In this way, anxiety was
discovered as the antithesis of pleasure.)
Once the two antithetically functioning facts were found, the next logical question was:
If these two facts function in opposite directions, i.e. if they cancel each other out, like
pleasure and anxiety, or determine each other, like drive and pleasure, or
parasympathetic system and sexuality, then in what third function are they identical?
Or, expressed differently: With respect to what properties are they functionally
identical?
Once the trio of two antithetical functions and their common functioning principle had
been discovered and brought together, then the next logical question was: Is the newly
discovered common functioning principle, for example, the functional identity of
pleasure and anxiety in the biological excitation of the organism, an ultimate
indissoluble state, or is this common functioning principle itself the result of a splitting
up or dissociation? That is to say, does it contain within its own functioning realm an
opposite function, and what is the nature of this opposite function?
If it proved possible to find the common functioning principle of a1 and a2 in A, then B
was sought as the antithesis of A, and let us say that X was found as the common
functioning principle in which the antitheses of A and B were functionally identical.
We can depict this method of thinking in diagrammatic form as follows:

a1 and a2 are functionally antithetical, and simultaneously they are functionally


identical with regard to A as their common functioning principle; A and B are
antithetical functions which are functionally identical with regard to the common
functioning principle X, and so on.

Let us now replace the letters in the diagram by actual functions:

If this formulation of the common functioning principle of two antithetical functions is


correct, i.e., if it corresponds to an objective process, then it necessarily leads to new
discoveries or to theoretical simplifications. If the research does not develop, if there is
no new connection or correlation with the common principles, then the formulation was
incorrect. The antithetical functions and their common functioning principles cannot be
arbitrarily arranged. Actual (objective) antitheses must be determined which are rooted
in an actual (objective) common principle. The pleasure sensation, for example, can be
antithetical to both the emotion of anxiety and that of rage. But in the antithesis
between pleasure and anxiety the common functioning principle is different from that in
pleasure and rage. In the first instance, the common functioning principle is the
general biological excitation. The capacity of this excitation to function or flow in two
opposite directions, i.e., toward the periphery and toward the center, determines the
antithesis of pleasure and anxiety. This can be seen clearly in the physiological
phenomena of expansion in pleasure and contraction in anxiety.

On the other hand, the general biological excitation occurring in the antithesis, of
pleasure and rage can no longer be taken as the direct common functioning principle
when expansion and contraction of the living organism are seen as primary functions,
‘because both pleasure and rage go together with an expansion of the living organism.
Contraction is excluded. The plasmatic expansion which together with its opposite,
contraction, is based on the common principle of excitation at a deeper level of func-
tioning, itself becomes the common functioning principle of two antitheses, pleasure
and rage, but at a higher level. Expansion is narrower than general excitation. It is
therefore a principle of higher and thus lesser order.

This gives rise to an important principle for assessing the ranking of functions. They
may be close to or far from the general natural principle. The closer they lie, the more
all-encompassing they are; the further away they are located, the narrower they are,
and the smaller their range of function. Thus we detect the “depth” of the function, not
in the fact that it is split up, because all functions divide, but in the breadth of the
functioning realm, in the number of common functioning principles which it embraces.

The common functioning principle of pleasure and rage is thus the expansion of the
living system. The antithesis of pleasure and rage derives from the fact that in pleasure
the biological excitation affects the surface of the body, whereas in rage the deeper
lying musculature is mobilized and the excitation does not reach the skin. In pleasure
the energy charge of the skin increases, while it decreases in rage. These phenomena
are demonstrable at the oscillograph.[5] Now, since the surface of the skin functions
essentially as a sensory apparatus while in contrast the musculature functions as a
motor and destruction apparatus, this physiological difference also explains the
difference between the goals of pleasure and rage. The goal of the former is the tactile
sensation of pleasure at the surface of the organism, while the goal of the latter is
motor action and destruction.

Functionalism thus derives instinctual goals from instinctual functions, and not, the
other way around, instinctual functions from instinctual goals, as is done by
metaphysics. The motor action of the musculature is older than the goal of
destruction, and the pleasure function existed before the goal of pleasure.

Functionalism does not derive motor activity as the “consequence” from muscular


action as the “cause,” as is done by mechanistic materialism, but instead muscular
movement and destructive motor activity are seen to be functionally identical in the
action of hating. The one is inconceivable without the other. Functionalism replaces
“causes” by “common functioning principles” of an ever deeper and more broadly
encompassing order/This method of thinking will later prove to be correct in
orgonometric investigations.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY DRIVES

The splitting of a common functioning principle into two opposite component functions
is a natural process which generally follows an “external” stimulus. For example, the
action of water on yeast cells provides the stimulus for budding to occur through
swelling. The action of the male sperm cell on the female egg is the stimulus for
progressive division of the egg. Water or the sperm cell are not the “causes” of the
budding or of the division. In general, functions split up under the influence of their
paired function.

If the pleasure function, for example, cannot function undisturbed under certain
external conditions, then the expansion function of the life apparatus splits into the
desire for pleasure and into rage. In the human animal, the contradiction between
organism and authoritarian social organization has caused secondary drives, foreign to
the rest of nature, to emerge from the primary natural drives, which are expansion
functions. The antithesis of primary and secondary drives is easy to determine from
the presence or absence respectively of the capacity for natural orgastic convulsion.
The primary drives bring about “gratification,” i.e. an objective reduction in the energy
level. The secondary drives do not produce any gratification in the core of the
organism. The characteristic which opposes the secondary drives to the primary
drives, namely orgastic impotence, becomes the common functioning principle of all
secondary drives.

The function “orgastic potency” brings together one broad group of vital phenomena
into a functional unit. “Orgastic impotence,” as a common functioning principle, groups
together a specifically different type of human behavioral characteristics into a
fundamental unit. In my book Character Analysis[6]I have described these two groups
as “genital” and “neurotic” in character, and I therefore do not have to deal with them
any further here. We will return to this only when studying organ sensation as a tool of
natural research.[7]

The group which has orgastic impotence as its common functioning principle splits
into two comprehensive subgroups which are opposed to each other, but which are
functionally identical as far as the inability to achieve gratification is concerned: por-
nographic sexuality and moralism. This contradiction, which has been the scourge of
human life for thousands of years, is alien to the other group whose common
functioning principle is natural orgastic potency. In that group there is no such
antithetical division and disunity. Sexuality and morality, nature and culture form a
unit. The common functioning principle of orgastic potency also functions in the two
mutually interacting directions of work and love.

The following are examples of paired functions and their common functioning principle:
Let us now return to the main thread of our topic.

THE RIGIDIFICATION OF THE HUMAN ORGANISM

Human organisms in which behavior can be grouped together under the common
functioning principle of orgastic impotence, i.e. the incapacity for orgastic convulsion,
formed a new and broad area of research for functionalism from which orgonomic
biopathology emerged.

Establishing the common functioning principle of orgastic impotence immediately


raised the next question: What is the basic function to which the many different forms
of orgastic impotence can be reduced? The answer is: rigidification or armoring of the
organism, i.e., chronic contraction of large muscle areas.

If muscular armoring is the common functioning principle to which all phenomena of


orgastic impotence can be traced, if orgastic impotence itself is a common functioning
principle of higher order than muscular armoring, which itself splits, then the logical
question to ask is: Where is the antithesis of orgastic impotence with its many
divisions? Clinical examination of patients answered this major question in an
extremely fruitful manner.

The functional antithesis is the respiratory block. Anxiety about orgastic pleasure is an
important part of orgastic impotence. This anxiety causes the sufferer to hold his or
her breath at the moment when orgastic excitation increases. This prevents the
orgastic discharge. The respiratory block causes the orgastic impotence, and the
orgastic impotence determines the respiratory block. Both are rooted in muscular
armoring:

Muscular armoring splits up into several paired antithetical functions: The respiratory
block and the incapacity for orgastic convulsion, as described above, the need for
pleasure and the incapacity for pleasure (pleasure anxiety), or in the need for love and
the inability to love. We find it also in sadism and remorse, as in the case of
obsessional illness; in perversion and moralism; in compulsive work and the inability to
work; or in sharp differentiations between good and evil, etc., etc.

The respiratory block, itself a variant of muscular armoring, becomes the common,
higher functioning principle of a series of pathological functions, such as a rigid chest,
high blood pressure, enlargement of the heart, excess of carbon dioxide in the blood,
etc.

If we now stop tracing muscular armoring as a common functioning principle of the


respiratory block and orgastic impotence, and instead follow it into the depths as a
part-function of a deeper, common functioning principle, the next question follows
logically:
What is the antithesis of muscular armoring, and what is the common functioning
principle of armoring and its still unknown antithesis?

The only reliable way to answer such functional questions is to carefully examine the
phenomena and expressions of the known function from which we are continuing our
search. Clinical studies of muscular armoring show that it is not a static, rigid
formation, but instead it corresponds to a standstill of the life functions as a result of
the dynamic equilibrium of opposing forces. The armoring does not function like a wall
made of cement, but instead like two automobiles whose engines are running, but
which cannot move because they are acting against each other with equal force. This
immobility resulting from the blocking of vitality is merely an external appearance. If we
push one of the cars even just a little to the side, then both automobiles start to move.
Exactly the same thing happens when we “mobilize” armorings, technically speaking.

What now follows is still an unproved assumption. It attempts to pave the way for
grasping a cardinal problem of human existence, the solution of which would
presumably eliminate a whole series of current social conflicts.

Outside the sphere of human existence, in living and nonliving nature, we encounter a
functionalism which is characterized by great simplicity. This simplicity and the
transparency of natural phenomena have from time immemorial led the major poets
and philosophers to speak of the nobility and simplicity of nature. Natural law is
characterized by:

the common functioning principle which dominates and permeates broad areas
(attraction, pulsation, vascular system).
the variants of the functioning principle, each of which in turn can become a higher
order common principle.
the bringing together of large or small groups of variants into a functional unit which
has a common functioning principle (organisms, species of animals, and plants, etc.).

The division of a seed into root and stem, then of the stem into branches, the branches
into twigs, and the twigs into leaf stalks; the splitting up of the nervous systems and of
the vascular systems of animals; the division of the animal egg into cells, which are
then grouped together into various organs, and the grouping of the organs into the
functional unity of the organism are all simple, uncomplicated functions. This does not
mean that the splitting processes are not numerous or variegated or that many
functions of living organisms are not difficult to comprehend. Of course they are. But
they are not complicated in the sense of entangled, opaque, and insoluble. For
instance, with the exception of the human animal and his institutions, there is nothing
in the realm of living and nonliving nature which one could refer to as suppression in
the biosocial sense of the word with which civilized man has been so very familiar for
several millennia. Nobody can assert that “suppression” or “power conflicts” are
primary topics anywhere in nature outside the sphere of human existence.

In investigating this subject, orgonomic functionalism did not set out with the intention
of solving the “riddle of human misery.” However, as it developed, a certain peculiarity,
which has no equal anywhere else in nature, was discovered in the area of human
character formation. It was logical to ask whether this specifically human kind of
functioning forms the basis of all philosophies which accord human beings a “special,” 
“chosen” position, strictly separated from animals, in the overall scheme of nature.

Numerous misconceptions of sex-economic sociology derive from ignorance of the


order of rank which should be assigned to the various functioning realms, and from the
fact that the common, underlying principle of two mutually interacting derivatives is
overlooked. One particularly good example of this is the interaction of typical individual
character structure and social institutions. Until a few decades ago, character
formation was thought of as something which was inherited in an undefined manner.
Then, around 1928, character analysis recognized the overwhelming importance of
social environment for character formation. Character analysis discovered that the
social origin of a person is fixed in frozen form in his character. By modifying the
instinctual drives, social institutions produced the typical character structure, and the
character structure of the human beings of a particular epoch reproduced the social
institutions and corresponding ideologies. This was the answer to the question left
open by Marxist sociology as to how, and with the help of which functions, the
“material basis” is converted into the “ideological superstructure.”
Society and character structure thus form a clear, simple relationship of antithesis and
interaction. But functionalism did not stop there. Human character structure itself
divides up with regard to the functioning principle of drive economy into two sharply
defined, again antithetical variations, i.e. into the genital character, distinguished by a
self-regulating sexual economy, and the neurotic character, which is revealed in a
disordered sexual economy. The functioning principle of drive economy is a biological
principle. It operates in a much wider realm than its particular derivative functions,
society and character structure. If we only relate society to character and character to
society, then although this is correct it is incomplete and sometimes leads to incorrect
conclusions. For example, the existing typical character structure of human beings is
regarded as “normal” because it conforms to, reflects, and anchors the existing social
structure. But this conclusion is only correct as long as we remain within the
boundaries of current processes between society and human beings. We immediately
discover, however, that we are moving in a circle when we try to eliminate deplorable
conditions and catastrophes in existing circumstances. It is not enough to think
merely in terms of the antithetical relationship between man and society because this
excludes development in the sense of improvement in the conditions, or the elimination
of harmful processes. The concept “normal” then becomes completely devoid of
meaning; it becomes static and rigid, i.e. unusable. In order to eliminate undesirable
conditions, i.e. in order to break out of the vicious circle of the production of
pathological character structures by society, and the reproduction of life-endangering
social circumstances by those same character structures, we must place ourselves
outside this functioning realm; we must discover in concrete terms what constitutes
the common functioning principle of harmful social institutions and morbid character
structures. It is then no longer the principle of character formation as such which acts
as the antithesis to society as such, but instead a special kind of character formation
functions in interaction with a special social structure. We find then, for example, that
the typical character structure in present-day society is armored, and that this
armoring produces corresponding social institutions and processes, and vice-versa.
The new question arising from our thought technique is no longer: In what way do man
and society determine each other? Instead, in the light of progress made by functional
research, it is: What type of individual produces this special type of society with its
catastrophic events? “Normal” then no longer means “adaptation” to existing social
conditions, but instead it means adaptation to certain biological functions. From the
standpoint of the broader and deeper functioning realm of biology, what appeared previ-
ously as normal in terms of social adaptation, now appears “abnormal,” or “sick” in the
sense of being “life-inimical.” I do not believe that anybody who is on the side of
developmental processes in nature and society can fail to see the necessity of drawing
these conclusions. When researchers who genuinely wish to achieve progress actually
support the status quo, this is due not to any lack of progressive will or humanity, but
to their static, functionally incomplete way of thinking.

The biological criterion of genital character as the normal character structure is


broader, deeper, and dynamic in the developmental sense. On the other hand, the
social criterion of adaptation and the definition of the biologically neurotic character as
the norm is a product of erroneous thinking, because it is restricted to the circle of
society – man – society, and it is incapable of progressing to the functional identity of
man and society in the common functioning principle of living nature. In this way,
“society” and “man” end up in an absolute, unresolvable antithesis to the functional
laws of the living. Nobody can deny that social and individual suffering can be ascribed
essentially to the absolute, mechanically rigid antithesis of society and nature, man
and nature, and ramifications thereof. Functionalism resolves this contradiction by
uncovering what man and society have in common, namely, the natural laws of life.
They are the sole usable criterion of “normality.” This criterion does not embody the
common functioning principle of neurotic man and his warmongering society, for the
principle of character armoring does not occur in it.

Let me simply draw attention to this interesting and extremely important problem,
without attempting to solve it. It came up in the following manner: When I took the
decisive step from analyzing neurotic systems through thought association to
removing the armoring of the organism in character analysis I found myself confronted
with the task of “disrupting the neurotic equilibrium of the patient.” The character-
neurotic armoring is a structure which is interwoven and incorporated into the entire
personality. It is an essential feature of the neurotic character that corresponding
disturbances of vitality are not experienced as morbid but (in contrast to the symptom)
as belonging to the ego. Now, even the symptom neurosis cannot be eliminated
without first getting rid of the “character-neurotic reaction basis.” The therapeutic
attack on his armor is felt by the patient to be a severe invasion of his innermost
personality, his “true ego.” An affect block, therefore, which so adversely affects vitality
and the zest for life, is actually a splendidly useful protective mechanism in our
present civilization. If this neurotic equilibrium is disturbed, if the armoring is broken
down, then strong affects, usually anxiety and sadistic rage, manifest themselves. The
functional interpretation of these facts is that the armoring of the human animal
represents frozen motion. This “motion” or “emotion” is released from the
characterological rigidity.

Careful study of the structure of this armor, i.e. of the arrangement of the forces which
are locked up in it, yielded the following universally valid, functional schema:

Let me now explain this diagram:

The original biological excitation continues to be produced in the core of the organism,
but it does not come directly to the surface and into action. At a it divides up like any
other natural function. But this process of division does not continue in further, simple
pairs of branchings, as for example in a vascular system or a tree trunk; instead, a
remarkable blocking arrangement, which constitutes the actual mechanism of the rigid
armoring and of human contactlessness, intervenes. One arm of the divided process
of excitation turns back to oppose the other arm (a2 against a1) in such a way that a
standstill of movement or motility results. One variation suppresses the other
completely and permanently maintains this state of suppression.

It is apparent from our schema that the energy of suppression comes from the same
source from which the suppressed movement stems. For example, the energy for the
moralistic suppression of infantile genital onanism comes from the same drive to play
with the genitals as does the onanism itself. This principle can be applied to all
moralistic, i.e. compulsively moral, functions. Compulsive religion, which turns against
the natural expressions of life and suppresses them, itself stems from the same
source as the natural expressions of life. Compulsive sympathy, which as a character
trait suppresses the subterranean sadism, is constantly fed by sadistic energy. This
easily betrays itself in the form of cruelty and the lack of consideration displayed by
the moralistic attitude.

In the further course of character development this process of division continues to


function. However, it is no longer the natural, original energy which directly feeds the
divisions, but instead a perverted, internally blocked energy. We call these character
formations “reactive.” The best example of this is the person who is simultaneously
moralistic and brutal.

A wealth of individual and social phenomena derive from the inner block of biological
activity which I have just described, and they can be reduced to the two basic
characteristics of the armored individual: evasive behavior and destructivity.

At this point we should concentrate on the essential facts: An internal blocking of


energetic activity would be difficult to find anywhere else in living nature. If such a state
is ever discovered, it would be necessary to investigate the reason for this abnormality.
We can see already that what we regard in the rest of nature as a deviation from the
natural law, i.e. as an abnormality, is considered “normal” by the average person who
is armored, in other words, who is biologically rigid or frozen. As long as we remain
within the framework of thought which stems from the intellectual world of armored
human beings, we will experience and represent the abnormality as normal. But in or-
der to assess and comprehend such a strange phenomenon as the armoring of an
animal species, we cannot remain within the framework of its ideational world. We
must place ourselves outside this framework and we must observe the armored human
animal with all his ideas, ideals, and institutions from a wider standpoint if we wish to
make correct assessments. An observer in a railway train who wishes to say
something about the nature of the train and does not think beyond the bounds of his
carriage is forced to conclude that the train is standing still and the countryside is
moving. It is only when he descends from the train and stands alongside it that he
perceives that the train is moving. He will now inevitably assert that the earth is stand-
ing still if he does not place himself outside the earth in cosmic space. Only then will
he make the correct assessment, namely, that the earth is also moving.

We know that all the progress made in human thought and judgment has come about
because the innovators have placed themselves outside whatever they had to judge in
order to discover new facts.

Functionalism very soon found itself outside the frame of thought of the mechanistic-
mystical civilization of the last two to four thousand years, when it started to
investigate natural functions from a fundamentally new standpoint. What was this new
standpoint, the new framework, from which the world of mechanism and mysticism
was observed? Although I did not realize it at first, it lay in a much broader functioning
realm of nature, namely, in that of the living. Quite simply, I no. longer studied human
beings merely as humans, as members of a church, as subjects of a state, as bearers
of civilization, etc., but as living organisms. The function of a “living organism” is
understandably much broader than the function of a “human.” In contrast, the results of
mechanistic natural science, and certainly those of metaphysics, are conclusions by
humans as humans about nature, that is to say, they are the statement of a narrower
functioning principle about a much broader one. This would not in itself be confusing if
man took what he has in common with nature and made that the standpoint of his
observations and judgments. However, over the centuries and indeed millennia, the
armored human being has taken his own peculiarities and deviations, and the
unnatural, biologically abnormal variants thereof, as his standpoint for judging the
world. For this sin he has paid the terrible price of unnecessary and cruel suffering on
an infinitely large scale, but he is far from finished with his payments. From his
position of abnormality, he has conceived of his own godlike origin, and from this he
has created God according to his own image. To this God he has assigned his own
pettiness and vengefulness, his own moral brutality, and he has made sacrifices to
him: He has slaughtered children, burned his widowed spouses, or tortured and
executed people of different faiths—in the Middle Ages for religious reasons and in the
modern age for state-political reasons. Whoever insists on regarding this as “normality” 
whoever is unable to break out of this frame of thinking has in fact sold his soul to his
own devil. And in his devil the human animal will sooner or later recognize a God who
was perverted into a devil by the characterological armoring. For “God” and “Devil” are
not absolute opposites and certainly not metaphysical opposites, because they have
their common root in the human animal’s natural feelings for life.

if further research on functionalism in nature should confirm my assumption that the


human animal is the only product of nature whose functioning is disrupted and
modified by an intervening block, the armor, then psychology would have gained a
new, not to be underestimated position vis a vis metaphysics. The block caused by
armoring in the human animal becomes the common functioning principle of a whole
range of complicated ideological formations in which mankind is trapped.

[1] Translated from the German by Derek and Inge Jordan.

[2] This initial attempt to devise a natural scientific formulation of psychology in the
early years of the twentieth century has in the meantime been completely stifled by
run-of-the-mill theories about human nature.

[3] “Concerning the Energy of Drives.” Included in Early Writings, Volume One, Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, New York, 1975. [Eds.]

[4] Cf. Reich, The Bion Experiments, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1979.
[Eds.]
[5] Cf. Reich, The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety, Farrar, Straus
and Giroux, New York, 1982. [Eds.]

[6] Cf. Reich, Character Analysis, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1972. [Eds.]

[7] Cf. Reich, Ether, God and Devil, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1973. [Eds.]

Wilhelm Reich

Love, work and knowledge are the wellsprings of our life.


They should also govern it.

Email:
contact@www.wilhelmreich.gr

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